TTC/April/2012 - Monkey Mind

The Chinese xinyuan, and Sino-Japanese shin-en, is a Buddhist term meaning "hear-/mind-monkey" - "unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive, uncontrollable." Over the last couple weeks in Rishikesh, I've spent a lot of time watching the monkeys - watching how they eat like us, sleep like us, and at times even seem to think like us. The monkeys here are smart - they know exactly the best time to snatch a bag of fresh vegetables, and can even apparently unscrew bottled water. Still, something is different. If you watch the monkeys closely, you can anticipate their movements, as they are quite predictable. One species of monkeys is quite amiable towards humans, while another aggressive. One likes bananas, and other mangoes. However, it is quite difficult to predict the actions, likes, and dislikes, of each human being passing on the street. We suffer the existential crisis and are all on a search for something more. Still we often remain monkey-like: "unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive, uncontrollable."

A monkey outside Krishna Cottage
My mother often talks about her monkey mind. When a bit of information seems to pass straight through, or she forgets something she's known for a long, long time, she says - "Oops! Forgive my monkey mind!" Each of our minds jumps from one piece of information to another constantly throughout the day. Excellent multi-taskers, we've learned in an increasingly busy world how to process information rapidly. However, each of us seems to lose a bit of ourselves in this process - at least I know I have. As we allow the information in, our sense of self often gets lost in all the hubbub and commotion. Our mind becomes a jumble of instinct and programmed reactions  - a monkey mind

My Mala
However, our teacher suggested this week that each of us does not have a monkey mind, but instead a mind of a diligent researcher with a PHD. Our mind is constantly looking to analyze information so that we might find what we are looking for: peace, love, and happiness. As we move throughout the day, our minds naturally sift through information in the effort of finding this one shared goal that we all have in life. Just as asana practice gives one an increased amount of control over the body, meditation gives one this control over the mind. Focusing on the breath, we are learning here to transcend these monkey - or PHD researcher - thoughts and move in fact towards the centered goal that we all share: unity of the self and each other.

The Graduation Ceremony
This week we had the wonderful opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony of a class of students from Iran. It was wonderful to see the shared joy and respect that each of the new teachers demonstrated and gave to their instructors. After two weeks of classes, and this ceremony, I have become certain that I will be able to harness practices taught in this course to still my mind and move towards peace, love, and happiness. Goodbye monkey mind, hello calm, still, centered me. 

The Studio


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